Wimbledon 2002 was one of the strangest editions of this famous tournament, with only a couple of the top 15 seeds advancing to the quarterfinals and two base players reaching the title match. Along with many other favorites, Roger Federer had to pack much earlier than expected following a 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 first-round loss to 18-year-old qualifier Mario Ancic, who arrived to Wimbledon without ATP victories.
A year ago, Federer defeated seven-time champion Pete Sampras on his way to the quarterfinals at the All England Club, expecting more of the same in 2002 and dreaming of winning the title. However, his dreams were crushed after a mediocre performance against Ancic, never finding the rhythm on serve and allowing the Croatian to have the advantage.
There was a lot of discussion about surface speed that year, and Federer had no doubt that he was much slower than in 2001 after barely hitting aces and not using the SERVICE as a weapon. Very disappointed, Federer couldn't find a way to describe the loss at the press conference, saying that he has to work hard for the next North American tour after early outings at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where he failed to score wins.
"Mario deserves to pass because he couldn't hit the right shots at the right time. That hurts, especially in a Major and with the best-of-five games, where I think I'm the best player. Today was a shame. I couldn't decipher his service and struggled to read the release.
Returning him also worked well. I felt from the beginning that my service was not there; I tried to bring in so many first serves, but as soon as I wanted to go stronger and hit an ace, I didn't go in."
Federer returned to the court in fine fashion
Roger Federer claimed he was happy to have gotten past Pete Sampras' old record of 14 Majors and that he was under no pressure to add to his tally.
"It seems it's all about Grand Slam titles nowadays and I don't like that," Roger Federer said. "When I came on the tour, it wasn't just about the Slams. It was Pete Sampras who triggered this and suddenly said that now only the Slams would be of interest to him.
In the future, more players will win Grand Slam tournaments anyway," he added. "The Slams have certainly given me a lot, and they offer tennis a big stage but after my 15th I didn't really care whether I had 15, 16, 17 or 18.
I just wanted to break Sampras' record, everything else was a bonus. As long as we (three) play everything is possible, at the end, the accounting will be done."